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Israel and Egypt to mend fences

Israel and Egypt's leadership have tried to limit the damage in ties after protesters stormed Israel's embassy in Cairo, wrecking offices and prompting the evacuation of nearly the entire staff from Egypt in the worst crisis between the countries since their 1979 peace treaty.

The 13-hour rampage deepened Israel's fears that it is growing increasingly isolated amid the Arab world's uprisings and, in particular, that Egypt is turning steadily against it after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the authoritarian leader who was a close ally.

In Israelis' eyes, the scene of cars burning outside the embassy and the tale of six Israeli guards trapped inside for hours in a steel-doored safe room underscored their view that anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt was running free after decades of being contained by Mubarak's regime.

The ousted leader's powerful security forces never would have let a protest get near the Nile-side embassy.

Egypt's new military rulers, in turn, appear caught between preserving key ties with Israel - which bring guarantee them billions in US military aid - and pressure from the Egyptian public.

Many Egyptians are demanding an end to what they see as too cosy a relationship under Mubarak, who they feel knuckled under to Israel and the US, doing nothing to pressure for concessions to the Palestinians.

Egyptian security forces did nothing as hundreds of protesters massed outside the Nile-side high rise residential building where the Israeli Embassy is located and tore down a concrete security wall Egyptian authorities erected there only weeks earlier.

Many protesters saw the wall as a symbol of the government's willingness to protect Israelis but not Egyptians, since it was put up to keep back protests after Israeli forces chasing militants accidentally killed five Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula.

Police and military also did little initially when a group of around 30 protesters after nightfall climbed in a third-story window and raced up to the embassy floors, broke into an office and began throwing Hebrew-language documents to the crowd below.

The protesters ransacked parts of two floors of the embassy for hours until police finally managed to clear them out in the early hours Saturday.


From Belfast Telegraph